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RE: ISSUE-88 / Re: what's the language of a document ?

From: Ian Hickson <ian@hixie.ch>
Date: Thu, 11 Mar 2010 01:14:27 +0000 (UTC)
To: Richard Ishida <ishida@w3.org>
Cc: www-international@w3.org, public-html@w3.org, 'Maciej Stachowiak' <mjs@apple.com>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.64.1003110102400.21376@ps20323.dreamhostps.com>
On Wed, 24 Feb 2010, Richard Ishida wrote:
>
> It's significant that the thing we're calling the pragma is a use of a 
> <meta> element.

It's the <meta> element for historical reasons. I don't think it's 
particularly significant to the discussion at hand,


> It's metadata, and the view of the i18n WG is that it should be 
> available for use to specify metadata if you need to do so *in the 
> document*.

If you need to specify the language, the lang="" attribute seems to 
provide a significantly better solution than this pragma. If it wasn't for 
compatibility with legacy content, I think the pragma would be best 
removed from the language altogether.


> It's true that a lot of people misunderstood the use of this pragma in 
> the past, but that's what we're trying to clarify here (and btw I've 
> seen evidence that that is changing).

Can you share this evidence? If people really are learning how to use this 
pragma, that changes matters significantly.


> The i18n WG agrees that authors should be discouraged from using the 
> pragma for the purposes that the lang attribute should be used, but we 
> are also saying that, its use should be *encouraged* for cases where you 
> want to specify metadata inside the document.

Could you elaborate on what use cases this would be intended to address? I 
don't understand why authors would want to do this.

Also, note that using http-equiv is not setting metadata. It's setting 
pragma directives for the user agent. If there is a solid use case here 
for document-wide metadata concerning languages, we can certainly handle 
it, but it would be best to handle it using the dedicated metadata 
mechanisms (<meta name>, microdata, RDFa, a dedicated attribute like 
lang="", or some other such mechanism.)


> And if you are using this to specify metadata, you must allow for 
> multiple values.  What's more, changing the syntax of the pragma to 
> accept only one language is likely to only further confuse people, in 
> the opinion of the i18n WG, since it now appears to be more like the 
> lang attribute, and in addition, the behaviour is different to previous 
> versions of HTML, which further complicates explanations about how to 
> handle language in HTML.

Previous versions of HTML did not match reality. As such, I don't think 
they're really relevant here.

Reality is that the http-equiv="Content-Language" value is handled more or 
less as defined in HTML5. It does not provide metadata; it can't handle 
multiple values. When supported at all, it just sets the default for the 
lang="" attribute.


> In addition, we are worried about the effect on legacy data of changing 
> the number of allowed language values for this meta element.  There may 
> not be much out there, but there may also be some, and we felt that this 
> is inconsistent with the efforts of the html folks to maintain backwards 
> compatibility in other areas.

The goal of maintaining backwards compatibility in this case is exactly 
why multiple languages were dropped and why the meaning of this pragma was 
changed from the previous definition to the definition that matched actual 
usage and implementation.


> This was why we wanted to talk with you at TPAC and go through the 
> proposals in 
> http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/public-html/2009Oct/1086.html (on 
> which the Change Proposal is based), and we left that meeting 
> understanding that you had agreed to the proposals.

I thought I'd made the changes we agreed to -- apparently we didn't 
understand each other at that meeting!


> > I recommend going through the normal process for these, by the way 
> > (using bugs and so forth) rather than jumping straight to the Change 
> > Proposal stage. It will help ensure that we keep issues focused.
> 
> Actually we have been following the process.  Here is the original bug 
> report http://www.w3.org/Bugs/Public/show_bug.cgi?id=8088 which you 
> rejected.

That bug has a much narrower focus than some of the changes you have 
proposed, as far as I can tell.

-- 
Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'
Received on Thursday, 11 March 2010 01:14:59 GMT

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